Dorothy Bendel

                                                       Starlings move across the sky in black

                            clouds, a massive organism made of tiny heartbeats. A girl walks

                                                        away from her home when backs are turned, until she

                            no longer recognizes the houses set on manicured lawns, until a surge of

                cold air pricks the plumage at the nape of her neck. Some starlings migrate

long distances, some stick close to familiar lands to roost. The girl watches

             starlings fly closer, then farther, and thinks of the vacuum that terrified

               her when she was little, how it moved but went nowhere, yet devoured

                         everything in its path. The girl recalls how she dreamed of vacuuming

                          up her father, his body flattening and elongating the closer she moved

                         toward him, the terrible contraption roaring, until his entire body

             disappeared under the machine's rectangular head. She remembers

how, in his last moment, she heard a soft peep—like an accidentally stepped-on

mouse—echo through the vast living room, clean. Starlings, to the girl, seem

             brave because they are one but not alone. The girl l